Considering Premiership Rugby home-field advantage, you can question whether it is a constant benefactor? or a changeable one? A discussion for fans and stakeholders alike, home and away sides both. In this season to date, it is not a sole contributor to the current standings although, it will always play it’s part in every sport.

Others can safely argue that it’s just plain luck, or even circumstance. And many more counter it is good fortune resulting from form and application. Sometimes being in your own country, your own backyard gives a psychological calmness and focus on the objective.

Home-field advantage is a statistic, yet it is also a common denominator. Many examples can be found of teams forging indestructible home-field advantages [versus domestic or International opponents]. It can be shown as anywhere from 60% winning margin, up to a two-third factor. How does that relate to this current 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership?

Current leaders Sale Sharks have won all four of this season’s games played at Salford Stadium (AJ Bell). Several losses away now gives them 75% winning form, able to just fend off chasing Bath, who have won three home games. Next best home record being Exeter Chiefs, with four victories at their home ground at the completion of eight rounds.

The numbers don’t look at how mindset and good intentions impact how visiting sides perform though. A desire, passion, and a good deal of effort helps. Effort breeds rewards. Winning takes a great amount of preparation too, so attacking sides prosper – home or away. Results at home might be counted on only if the team commands their style of play in both offence and defence.

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Winners are Grinners; Premiership Rugby home-field advantage

Winning consecutively is one half of the story. Playing your Premiership Rugby home-field advantage is a card each side would count on’ for a full complement of victories. At home, it is a pillar on which a preseason objective can be relied on. Two separate outliners apply being that the outcome is never certain, yet sometimes ‘counted on’ when factors lay in ones favour.

When considering rugby union strategies, they cover a wide range of topics and reasoning. Some ‘called on the field’ or pre-planned in the sheds, the propagation of a plan can inspire some. Martin Johnson would never have leave the Tigers’ changing rooms without all his teammates knowing ‘what the plan was’. Bet on it.

In a way, the current results from the 2023/24 season can be used to illustrate that advantage. Compared to any year, you have initial objectives that must be Positive to your overall plan. Not even the lowest-ranked club out of the 10 involved would not display a desire to win at home first and foremost. The schedule is a major factor – minus Rugby World Cup players early impacted the opening weekends. It affected some teams harsher than others.

Examine the opening Round One = five out of five home side wins

That changed steeply in Round Two though, Only Harlequins won at home (1/5), with that trend continuing in Round Three. It shows that in a competitive season, your Premiership Rugby home-ground advantage was nowhere near as secure as in other domestic leagues. By comparison, in the United Rugby Championship over the same three weeks, four out of eight games were won by home sides in their first round. In their second week, six out of eight results went to home sides (with one draw) which showed an improvement.

Mind you, looking across to the French Top14, that has displayed a consistent degree of home-ground success. During the first round, six out of seven games went the way of the home team. In the second round, every home side won, and the following round, again six out of seven. Translated into the season to date, it is an 82% winning ratio compared to the Premiership, where it is at 59%

French teams enjoy higher home winning percentage

So the evidence in 2023/24 is that French clubs enjoy more favourable results at home than in England. Why? It could be said that with four less sides, English clubs should be rewarded with more home games. They should be able to fortify their Premiership Rugby home-field advantage; yet they suffer the opposite.

Negative impacts have to be examined. From good to bad on-field options taken across the full 80-minutes, there are a huge number of intentions involved from the season start. So gaining early wins aided by your home-field advantage drive the successful journey over your season. Positive sides will buy into an attitude of invulnerability on home soil. Just as the All Blacks excel at protecting their record playing at Eden Park – where they have not been defeated there since 1994.

A side like Munster also demands of it’s players a mindset where the home ground is valued to the highest degree. Where your fans and stakeholders can almost guarantee that a win can be secured at Thomond Park.

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The Sale Sharks are displaying that sentiment in the Premiership. With all four home matches secured, they can rely on that factor and search for the results away from home. A strategy to maximise the gains made at home, and transfer those to away fixtures – not occurring over this last round. Harlequins put Sale to the sword 36-3, so it is not a practised strategy for all. Whereas in the French club competition, no one team has gone unbeaten as such, yet three sides have all won five home games. Again proving how strongly clubs like Castres, Toulon, and Pau emphasise home-ground superiority.

That is a role where the fan can influence the outcome. Partisan support is crucial, to neutralize away team supporters and to boost the confidence of the players defending their home patch. Because it is generally that simple. Defend your house. Win for the sake of the club’s honour and history, and to further your ambitions over the course of the domestic season and Champions Cup/Challenge Cup objectives.

Lose one or two, may not ‘crash’ your full season

Losing does occur. Only a fool bets on an impervious season start. Look toward winning consistently – and look toward your home games meaning a virtual banked result. Okay, that might be impossible too, yet some count Premiership Rugby home-field advantage from the beginning of the year. “We can win all our home games” is heard in team talks, though adding the full complement of competition points is  (as important in French Top14, as it is in the United Rugby Championship, Super Rugby or even the Six Nations). It is relative to input and outcome.

One party not directly involved, are the fans. So when any of those rugby union strategies go wrong, the consternation from supporters can be manifested in complaints, bad press, or worse. As dependent on the result, as the motivation behind them, recent examples have not shown the best results for the team’s themselves.

In the sport of rugby; like any competitive team sport, external forces can contribute. And in that case, policies from the clubs and national governing bodies leda to selection criteria that seem to hamstrung some team’s places in the playoffs. It affects Super Rugby in New Zealand severly, with contracted All Blacks minutes limited, due to player association welfare conditions. It has a big impact on when some star players participate across the season, at times affecting more than just fitness or ‘player loading’ issues.

Other strategies play out on the field. Like starting lineups, substitutions, decisions at set-piece, and even interplay with the referee [though, caution is needed here], so the execution of your chosen strategy has a direct influence on the result. It is just if and when it goes array, that scrutiny goes on decision-makers. Learning from mistakes away can bring benefits back to your home field the next week.

Sale Sharks should benefit from this in the first round of Investec Champions Cup fixtures. For the next two weeks, they face Stade Francais at home on December 10, before traveling to Leinster – a side who have a formidable home ground record. So the job in fact, may have gotten tougher. And home-field advantage again plays a large part in all European Professional Clubs, just like it does in domestic play.

 

“Main photo credit courtesy of Premiership Rugby facebook

Akash Mahi, a dedicated enthusiast of the game, is a recognized expert in the domain of tennis balls. With a keen understanding of materials and aerodynamics, he has contributed to the evolution of tennis ball design, enhancing playability and performance. Mahi's expertise continues to impact both casual players and professionals alike.